Earlier today, I sat down to write about my top ten movies of 2017. Then I realized that I had not seen Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water. Based on the buzz it is receiving around the internet, I thought it had a strong chance of landing on my top ten list. Many seem to feel it may be the absolute best movie of the year.
I am not one of those people.
However, that does not mean it is not a very high quality film. When I was childless thirty-year old with plenty of disposable income and time on my hands, I probably would have had a much higher opinion of this movie. Unfortunately, these days, my time is very precious.
That is the mentality I have when I write my reviews. I pretend I am writing for my friends in a similar stage of their lives as I am in. Therefore, a non-family movie has to be exceptional in order for me to suggest a friend spend their valuable time on it. (Kids movies have an added bonus of being "family time" so I am far more forgiving).
The following contains the same spoilers that are found in the movie's previews.
If you grew up in the U.S. in the 1960s or 1970s, you undoubtedly saw the 1954 movie The Creature From the Black Lagoon (That is one of the unavoidable side effects of having only four TV channels to choose from). If after watching that movie, you thought to yourself, "Huh. I wonder what it would be like if that creature were brought to the U.S. and fell in love with a woman who is mute?" Then this movie is made for you!
Because that is the exact plot of the movie. Just to be clear. The movie's premise is not that a creature similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon comes to the U.S.... it is the exact same creature.
The Shape of Water is basically the sequel to 1954s The Creature from the Black Lagoon... as a love story.
I realize that I said that three different ways. That was intentional. If you are going to see this movie, you must understand what you are getting yourself into. If you fully understand and have not given the movie a hard pass, then please continue reading.
But wait. That sounds ridiculous. How can this still be a "high quality film"?
It has nearly every element of a great movie (if you can get past a completely absurd premise).
The attention to detail in all of the sets as well as the characters that fill them are amazing.
The basic story is fascinating. During the Cold War, The Creature from the Black Lagoon is brought to a U.S. government lab to be tested own in hopes of the knowledge aiding America's efforts to put a man on the moon. There are spies, love interests and an incredibly creepy villain.
All of the characters, and the actors who portray them, are incredible. Despite the fact that she cannot speak, the audience falls in love with the lead, Elisa, brilliantly portrayed by Sally Hawkins. Her two main friends played by Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) and Richard Jenkins are wonderful. As always, Michael Shannon does a perfect job as the sinister villain.
The visuals are stunning. Not only does the Creature look incredibly real, the sets are extraordinary. Del Toro brilliantly captured the feeling of being in a lab in the 1960s.
The movie also included a bit of humor that went over very well with the audience.
The film even has a pretty deep message. This is clearly an allegory for racism and other forms of discrimination. It was a very clever way to make the point that the human race still has a long way to go in the area of treating each other with dignity and respect. Although this may turn some viewers off by being "too preachy", I enjoyed the shrewd way the theme was woven into the story.
So the story, characters, acting, visuals, humor, were all on point and it has a clever message. How the heck is this not a great movie?
Here's the problem. The movie is 120 minutes long. All of the aforementioned strengths would have been perfectly suited for a 42 minute episode of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Dark Side.
If you read "Twilight Zone" and pictured glistening vampires... you are much younger than I.
There are so many unnecessary scenes and details about the side characters that it brought the movie to a screeching halt. Actually, it was more like the movie never got up to full speed. In addition, the movie has two distinct pieces: spy and love. Sadly, it does not find the right balance between the two and ends up being far too heavily skewed toward the supernatural romance. It would be a great date movie... if it weren't about the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I'd say the demographic for this type of love story is rather small. I would have preferred that the spy angle be the main focus.
So should you see The Shape of Water?
Do you want to see a love story about a human and the Creature from the Black Lagoon?
If the answer is "no" you can stop.
If it is "yes" then the next question is; do you have a lot of time on your hands?
If "yes", then see it in the theater so you can truly enjoy the visuals.
If "no", then wait and rent it.
This might be a movie best enjoyed in more than one sitting. Perhaps it would have made a compelling two or three episode TV show (although I'd say one would cover it).
There's not a lot of this type of excitement in the movie. I wish there were a little more.
Before I do the Geeky Guide, it is important to note that this is not a kids movie. It is rated "R" for good reason. There is a significant amount of nudity, sexuality, violence and swearing.
Geeky Guy's Movie Guide
Number of times I fell asleep: 0
Number of eye rolls: 0 (It's about the Creature from the Black Lagoon falling in love with a human... I wouldn't have seen it if I were susceptible to eye rolls.)
Number of face palms: 0
Number of times I checked steemit: 0
Number of times I said "That's ridiculous": 0
Full price/Matinee/Rental/Free/Not worth the time: If you have a lot of spare time pay full price in a quality theater. If not, rent it or see it for free.